Second Lieutenant Michael Thunder, of the Royal Flying Corps, who died at Norwich on 24th September 1916 from burns received in a flying accident, was buried at Ramsgate on September 29th 1916 with full military honours. He was the son of the late Major George Thunder, and grandson, on his mother’s side, of Augustus Welby Pugin, the well-known Ramsgate architect. Michael was educated at St. Augustine’s College, Ramsgate. Six officers of the Flying Corps acted as bearers at his funeral, and the officer in command arrived by aeroplane.
Michael was born in 1879 in Ramsgate, the son of Major George Thunder 7th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and Margaret Pugin. He qualified as a mining engineer and worked in Argentina and Malaya before returning to the UK. He joined the Royal Flying Corps and qualified as a Pilot in January 1916 at the Military School in Ruislip. He joined the RFC 51 Squadron which formed at Thetford in Norfolk as a Home Defence unit. The Squadron flew BE2s and BE12s on anti-Zeppelin patrols, the unit also providing night flying training for newly qualified pilots with Avro 504Ks..
On the 24th September 1916 Lt. Thunder scrambled from Mattishall to intercept an attack from a dozen Zeppelin airships that were reported to have crossed the North Sea to attack London and the East coast. He was the only 51 squadron airman to be killed in action during the Great War.
His death certificate states that he failed to gain enough height on take off and crashed. The petrol of the aeroplane he was flying ignited after colliding with a tree and falling to the ground. Although badly burnt Michael managed to crawl away from the aircraft to a nearby hedgerow bank where he was picked up and taken to Thorpe St. Andrew War Hospital in Norwich where he later died of his injuries.
Michael was buried with his grandfather in St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church in Ramsgate , which was also designed by Pugin.